A letter from socialists in Mauritius

Submitted by martin on 1 May, 2008 - 3:38 Author: Lalit

Thanks for keeping us updated on activities of the Alliance for Workers Liberty. We send you news of the political situation in Mauritius and news of LALIT. You can of course also find more in-depth articles, many in English, on our website www.lalitmauritius.org should you wish for more detail.

SYSTEMIC CRISIS IN MAURITIUS The systemic crisis in Mauritius with the collapse of the sugar industry that had been the backbone of the economy and with the collapse of the textile industry, is unfolding in the context of world economic crisis, exposed by the recent US sub-prime lending crunch. The signs of this systemic crisis in Mauritius: rising unemployment, rising prices, threatened food shortages provoking social and political crises are now clear for all to see.

POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CRISES Finance Minister Sithanen has twice publicly threatened to resign due to "lack of solidarity" for his ultra-liberal economic policy from Ministers and MP's within the Labour Party alliance government. Polemics between members within the same government alliance on economic policy are being publicly debated through signed articles in the commercial media. The latest sign of crisis is the revocation of Foreign Affairs Minister Dulloo after he had publicly criticised government's stands on the Chagos and on its economic policy (which he had endorsed through his vote in the last government budgets) and started negotiating with an opposition party.

The cracks in the government alliance reflect different interests within the Mauritian bourgeoisie: one political current representing ultra-liberalism which is in the direct interest of transnationals on the one hand, and on the other, the historical bourgeoisie that has, from times of slavery owned and controlled the sugar industry and used this capital to expand into other key economic sectors; and the other current representing the interests of the Mauritian "state bourgeoisie" that finds its expansion blocked by the historical bourgeoisie and uses State power to strengthen itself. The historical bourgeoisie has maintained its traditional economic links with Europe, and the US. Faced with this, political representatives of the State bourgeoisie in the Labour Party government are promoting the implantation of Chinese, Indian, Malaysian companies for leverage.

Meanwhile, both sections of the Mauritian bourgeoisie shift the burden of economic crisis onto the working class: massive job destruction in the sugar industry, factory closures in textiles, renewed attempts to introduce more anti-worker legislation, huge price hikes on food and basic necessities with generalised price liberalisation. The desperation this creates for working people spawns social crisis: increased violence against women within the family, rows between family members or neighbours degenerating into lethal no-way-out fights with growing cases of ensuing deaths, mini-riots here and there, desperate emigration.

Women with rising unemployment are being forced back into family oppression in the home. Or else, women are being steered into small home-based businesses through micro-credit organised by government with full World Bank, IMF backing which means they end up debt-ridden and lose the little they have. All this exacerbates the pressure on the family creating further conditions for grave social crisis.

The trade union movement with rising unemployment, with the collapse of the sugar industry and textiles and at the same time, with privatisation, has weakened over the years, and is now cornered into defensive struggles, often limited to defending short-term gains for workers in one sector, often forced into allying with opportunist right-wing opposition parties.

LALIT'S RESPONSE In response to this systemic crisis LALIT has for some time now been working on ways to develop a counter-offensive to challenge the capitalist system and its systemic crisis. For some years now, as you probably know already, we have been building up a campaign for "alternative economic politics". This campaign is a central part of our transitional programme and in the last years, we have been developing the capacity to link our campaign up with other issues as they get hurled onto the national agenda (such as communalism, changes to the education system, women's emancipation). Our participation in the 2005 electoral campaign was centred on this counter-attack (i.e. the politics of an economic alternative), without neglecting more circumscribed related issues, of a more defensive nature, like the return to universal old-age pensions (which we won) and the re-instatement of Village Elections (which we also won).

MAJOR EVENT IN FEBRUARY 2008: LALIT CONGRESS In February this year, we had a LALIT Congress on the theme "The Party, the programme the working class and internationalism in the present phase of imperialism". It was a success both in terms of the number people present and interested in socialist politics and who at the same time want to become more active in LALIT to contribute to challenging the system. This is something that for us is new relative to the last 25 years or so. The Congress had an important international component as one of the speakers invited was leading WOSA member Neville Alexander from South Africa.

Little packages of past newspapers we have received from socialist organisations (yours included) were prepared so that Congress participants could take home to read. LALIT values our links with you and other socialist organisations. Whenever it is appropriate in our open meetings, gatherings, we make it a point to explain how and why we have links with you and other socialist organisations so that all our members have an idea of what and who you are.

LALIT STRENGTHENS ORGANISATIONALLY Branches and regionals of LALIT have been strengthened by the Congress, and new branches formed. Party commissions: youth, union, international, women, education and language, against imperialist military bases including Diego Garcia, have all been strengthened with new members. New Commissions were born in the Congress: one to develop our campaign for alternative economic politics, and one on the international economy. The Congress has also generated a new series of "political education" courses that have already started in two regions (one covering the North, and the other covering the South of Mauritius island). You can find more detail about our Congress, political education courses and other LALIT activities on our website (click on the word "news" under the banner photo and then scroll down). As LALIT strengthens, the bourgeois press and private radio stations vacillate between pretending LALIT does not exist and then, when the systemic crisis produces ideological vacuums and other panics, calling on LALIT members for quite thorough press interviews or for in-depth radio programs.

LALIT MEMBER IN PALESTINE 2007 HER "PALESTINE DIARIES" PUBLISHED IN 2008 As part of LALIT's on-going campaign against the occupation of Palestine, in 2007, one of LALIT's leading members, Ragini Kistnasamy, went to the West Bank in Palestine to participate in making more visible what occupation means during the olive harvest. This was her second visit there, her first one being in 2004. In 2004, Alain Ah-Vee, another leading LALIT member, was part of the protest march against the aparthied wall being built by the Israeli State in Palestine. In January this year, LALIT jointly with the Muvman Liberasyon Fam published "Dayeri Palestinn" - the two diaries of what she experienced in Palestine day-by-day in 2004 and 2007.

MAJOR EVENTS IN THE DIEGO GARCIA STRUGGLE LALIT has recently produced an update on recent events on the illegal occupation of Diego Garcia by the UK-US military base: the confirming in British Parliament that US military base on Diego Garcia was used for torture victims rendition programme and illegal transfers, and that the UK State lied no less than 7 times about this, Chagossian leader Olivier Bancoult caving in to UK State pressure for him to state that most Chagossians would prefer to be British to open up a way for Diego Garcia and the rest of the Chagos to remain under UK control instead of being decolonised and re-unified with Mauritius. You can read our update "UK and USA under attack on Diego issue" on our website in the news section.

OUR DOCUMENTATION CENTRE GOING ELECTRONIC Our documentation centre containing LALIT documents from 1976 to 2008 and Mauritian newspaper cuttings from the mid-1970's up to today, on some 100 themes classified chronologically is in the process of going electronic.

We hope this mini-report gives you a better idea of the present situation in Mauritius and LALIT's position within it. We send members of your organisations warm greetings from LALIT.